253. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to Secretary of State Vance and Secretary of Defense Brown 1


  • Technology Transfer to China

The President has sent me a note from Camp David2 indicating agreement with the view that we owe it to ourselves, as well as to the Soviets, to indicate to the Soviets that we may have no choice but to [Page 899] counter their moves (Third World Cuban activities, the build-up of an arsenal in South Yemen, reinforcement of Cuban military potential in Central America) by going further in our relations with the Chinese. To give credibility to our hint to Moscow, we ought to consider transferring some ambiguously sensitive technology to China and parallel that with some serious discussions with the Soviets.3 The Protocols of the Vienna meeting are not particularly encouraging, and it would be a grave mistake to let matters rest there.4

Perhaps we can discuss this at our lunch.

Zbigniew Brzezinski
  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat Special Caption Documents, 1979–1989, S/S–IRM/SRD Files: Lot 92 D 630, Not for the System, 1979. Top Secret; Alpha Channel. Brown initialed “HB” at the top of the page. Above Brown’s initials, two stamped notations read, “SecDef has seen” and “11 Jul 1979.” Brown sent this copy of Brzezinski’s memorandum to both Vance and Brzezinski under a July 23 memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 251 and footnote 5 thereto.
  3. A July 20 memorandum from William Perry, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, to Brown described “five technology exports of interest to the PRC” that had both military and civilian applications: image processing equipment, a telephone switch network, inertial navigation systems, transport aircraft, and small commercial jet aircraft. (Department of State, Executive Secretariat Special Caption Documents, 1979–1989, S/S–IRM/SRD Files: Lot 92 D 630, Not for the System, 1979) In his July 23 memorandum to Vance and Brzezinski, Brown noted that of the five technologies, he favored proceeding “with items 1 (or 2) and 5.” He argued that such sales could be used “(A) As a lever to get intelligence cooperation from the PRC (especially if it is itself intelligence related). (B) As a signal to the Soviets as regards Cuban adventurism, or Soviet activities elsewhere.”
  4. In a July 23 memorandum to Vance, Tarnoff critiqued Brzezinski’s and Brown’s proposal; it is not clear whether Vance received the memorandum. Tarnoff argued that the proposed sales were not necessary to obtain Chinese intelligence cooperation, and that such cooperation was of dubious usefulness in any case. He also noted that the sales risked alienating the Soviet Union, would undermine U.S. efforts to restrain arms sales by U.S. allies, and might create a backlash among the American people that could reduce support for the strategic arms limitation agreement with the Soviet Union. (Ibid.)